|Situated on the southern bank of the Tungabhadra
River. The most magnificent of the religious edifices at Hampi,
it can be reached from the west by walking on from Hampi Bazaar
along the riverbank, or from the east through the Talarigattu
Gateway. Its reputation is well deserved both in the variety
of styles that characterize the shrines within the temple courtyard
and in the fineness of the carvings that embellish them. The
Vithala Temple is Hampiís crowning glory, with a magnificent
stone chariot standing in the temple courtyard. Equally impressive
is the large ranga mantapa with 56 musical pillars that resound
with musical chimes when struck. Its reputation is well deserved
both in the variety of styles that characterize the shrines
within the temple courtyard and in the fineness of the carvings
that embellish them. The temple stands in a large rectangular
enclosure. The three lofty Vijayanagara gopurams on the east,
north and south sides are now dilapidated. Of these the south
'gopuram' is the most ornate. Along the interior of the enclosing
wall ran a pillared colonnade. The enclosed courtyard contains
in the centre the god's sanctum with its axial 'mandapa' and
around it the 'Amman' sanctum, the 'kalyana mandapa', an 'utsava
mandapa', a hundred-pillared 'mandapa' and a stone 'ratha' (car).
Originally there was a lofty 'kipa-stambha' (12.2 m high) in
front of the east 'gopuram', but now it lies on the ground,
broken in pieces. The main temple was dedicated to Vishnu as
Vithala. Facing east, the sanctum of the god along with its
axial 'mandapa' forms a long and low structural group, about
7.6 metres in height and 70 metres in length. The group comprises
the open 'maha mandapa', a closed 'ardha-mandapa' with side-porches
and a covered 'pradakshina-prakara' enclosing the 'antarala'
and 'garbha griha'.
Style of Architecture Hard granite has been persuaded to sway,
to flow, to rise up in columns so that the texture of the stone
itself seems to have changed and become elastic. The main pavilion
contains 56 pillars, each of which has been carved out of a
single granite block in a rich structural unit with a cluster
of slender colonettes raised on crouching animals. When struck,
some of them produce musical notes as though from different
percussion instruments. The large 'maha-mandapa' has symmetrically
recessed sides. It measures 30.5 metres at its greatest length
and breadth. The 'mandapa' stands on a highly ornate 'adhishthana'
(1.5 metres high) with sculptured friezes of horses and warriors
and 'hamsa'. At intervals along the base, there are ornate miniature
'vimana' projections with figures of the 'Dasavataras' inside.
The standing figure of 'Kalki' is depicted with a horse's head.
The steps to the 'mandapa' have an elephant-balustrade on the
east but those on the north and south have 'surul yalis'. A
prominent feature of the 'mandapa' is the huge and deep cyma-recta
cornice with a continuous frieze of bas-reliefs of deities and
other figures. Thick stone rings are at the corners for holding
stone chains, which are no longer there. Fragments of the original
decorative parapet of brick and mortar with niches, niche-figures
and 'karna-kutas', are to be seen here and there.
contains fifty-six pillars, each 3.6 metres high, forty of
which are regularly disposed to form an aisle all round the
three sides, while the remaining sixteen form a rectangular
court in the centre. Each pillar is a massive composite sculptural
unit measuring as much as 1.5 metres across and may be termed
a monolithic sculptural group. The types of pillars vary according
to their position in the 'mandapa'. Thus most of the pillars
along the outer edges are composite ones with a large number
of slender columnettes forming part of the main pillar. The
two pillars at the centre of each side are of the yali type.
In the interior, most of the pillars on the south side are
of the yali type, while those on the north contain various
forms of Narasimha. Some of the inner pillars on the east
contain figures of women, dancers and drummers. The pillars
have heavy 'pushpa-podigai' corbels. The ceiling of the 'mandapa'
is divided into sections and carved beautifully with lotus-motifs.
Many sections have flat multi-petalled lotus carvings. Those
on the north and south are shaped like shallow domes with
lotus-petals and bud. Mandapa A large rectangular ceiling
on the east front has a high dome with a pendant lotus built
in the middle with sculptured parrots pecking at it. The central
court is now roofless. One of its huge roof-slabs, with part
of its lotus motif, stands in site, while another lies broken
on the ground. Remnants of painted work are seen here and
there in the ceiling on the south side of the 'mandapa'. The
five-aisled 'ardha-mandapa' is dilapidated and open to the
skies. In one corner of the 'mandapa' is a large but broken
granite figure of a 'dvarapala', nearly 2.7 metres high. It
is a fine specimen of Vijayanagara sculpture.
The 'ardha mandapa' leads to a covered 'pradakshina-prakara'
running round the 'garbha-griha' and the 'antarala'. The 'tritala
vimana' of the sanctum is well finished in an ornate style.
The wall of the shrine has ornate 'deva-koshthas', large and
well-proportioned 'kumbha panjaras' in bold relief and early
curved cornice with fine Vijayanagara kudus along with some
earlier type kudus also. A frieze of 'bhuta ganas' is above
the 'deva-koshthas'. The brick superstructure of the 'vimana'
with its domical 'sikhara' is now much dilapidated. The 'garbha-griha'
is now empty except for two 'pithas'. The Amman sanctum has
an 'antarala', a closed 'ardha-mandapa' and 'maha-mandapa'.
The 'ardha-mandapa' has a sub shrine on the north, facing
south. The 'garbha-griha' has no superstructure extant. Its
exterior is rather plain. The 'kalyana-mandapa' of the temple
to the south east of the courtyard, is particularly find and
almost surpasses the 'maha-mandapa'. It is also an open-pillared
'mandapa', symmetrically planned with deeply recessed sides
and is in many ways similar to the 'maha-mandapa'. It has
the usual arrangement of various types of composite pillars,
balustrades, etc. and beautifully carved and highly ornate
ceilings. This 'mandapa' contains vestiges of original Vijayanagara
paintings. The 'utsava-mandapa' to the north-east of the courtyard
is similar to the 'kalyana-mandapa' in its general style.
Abutting the southern wall of the courtyard is a hundred-
pillared 'mandapa' with three inscriptions in three different
languages stating that it was built by Krishnadeva Raya in
AD 1516. The 'mandapa' is rather plain.
The existence of the temple may be traced at least to the
time of Devaraya II (AD 1422-46). Though the general opinion
is that the temple was neither finished nor consecrated, epigraphic
and literary evidences show that it remained in worship at
least till the time of the battle of 'Rakshasi tangdi'. The
Vithala temple portrays the high watermark of perfection of
the Vijayanagara style, and one may well say that there is
no other building, which could stand comparison with it in